It’s hard to believe it’s been over a month since Griffin was born! I wrote down his birth story the week after he was born while it was still fresh in my mind, and I wanted to share it with you because I believe it’s important for women to share our birth stories with each other and with the world. And I’m so incredibly grateful to have this birth documented in photos by my friend and birth photographer, Meg.
Griffin Lee was born at home on Sunday, August 7th at 10:11pm.
However, this story actually begins on Wednesday, August 3rd. I woke up early in the morning, around 4:45am, with what I thought could be contractions, like I have had with each of my labors. As I got up and started going about my day, the contractions stayed pretty regular, but weren’t very strong or getting any stronger, I could manage them fairly easily. But they continued throughout the day, and I tried some home methods to try to get them going stronger.
Because all my other labors had basically happened this same way, I was convinced this was the real thing. By early evening, I felt like it was getting a little more serious. So Jer’s brother picked up our kids, and Jer and I headed out for a walk where my contractions seemed to get a lot stronger and closer together.
When we got home, I called my friend and birth photographer, Meg, to come over and also let my midwife know that things were progressing. Meg helped me get our bed prepared for the home birth, and she and Jer set up and started filling up the birth tub.
My midwife and her assistants arrived around 9:00pm or so, but things had settled back down by then, and I was managing the contractions easily again. My midwife didn’t check me to see how far along I was, but just said she was watching how things went. At this point I started to feel like I wasn’t really sure what was going on, I felt like things weren’t progressing the way I expected them to, and the way they had with my other labors. Jer and I went for another walk, but it didn’t seem to make much of a difference in the strength or timing of the contractions.
When we got back from the walk, I broke down because I was so discouraged and finally asked my midwife to check me, because I needed to know what was happening. She did, and determined that I was not actually in labor, I was only 3 cm dilated and the baby’s head was not really engaged and was not in a very good position to make the contractions productive or to really make progress in labor. She said that things could change quickly and I could end up having the baby the next day, or it could be several more days, or even a week or more.
All of this was extremely hard for me. I felt so discouraged and embarrassed that I had thought I was in labor when I really wasn’t. That the midwife and her assistants had come out and set everything up and now they were packing up and leaving. This was my fourth baby, I should know when I’m in labor and when I’m not, right?!
Thursday I woke up and just decided that I was going to ignore the contractions I was having until they were so strong that I couldn’t ignore them anymore. I had been having regular contractions on and off since Sunday, July 31st, which kept making me think that the baby was going to be born soon, but it just wasn’t happening the way I thought or expected. I had never experienced this kind of pre-labor, or prodromal labor, before.
So we kept ourselves busy for the next few days. I worked hard to relax and let go of control about when the baby would arrive. On Saturday, Jer took down the birth tub that had still been up in our dining room, and I jokingly said, “Now that you finally took that down I’m going to go into labor!” That’s how it always works, right?!
That evening, we headed to New Buffalo, MI to grab dinner at one of our favorite summer restaurants and spend a few hours at the beach, just to relax and spend some quality time together as a family. I thought it might be our last chance this summer to get to the beach before the baby was born.
Well, it turns out I was right about both the birth tub and the beach. But I really had no idea how quickly things would progress.
Sunday morning, the 7th, I again was awakened by contractions around 4:30, but I tried to ignore them and didn’t let myself think that the baby could be born that day. They were coming about every 30 minutes, but I stayed in bed and tried to get as much rest as I could.
I got up around 8:00am and was curious if the contractions would get any stronger, but, of course, they didn’t. My friend Meg asked if I wanted to go for a walk, and so we took our youngest girls down by the river and walked for about an hour. I didn’t have one contraction during the entire walk, so I told myself, this is definitely not happening today.
I did have a few more contractions as the day went on and then later in the afternoon our family snuggled up together to watch the Olympics because it was so hot outside. I fell asleep on the couch and took a nap for about an hour, and the contractions stopped again. See, the baby was definitely not coming today!
When I woke up, Jer told me he was going to take our van through the car wash and would take the kids with him. I sat on my birth ball, continued to watch the Olympics, and tried to do some work on my computer while the house was nice and quiet. While they were gone, I started having contractions that were about 10 minutes apart. And they were strong enough that I had to stop and stand up to breathe through them.
I was thinking these were definitely contractions I couldn’t ignore, but I still didn’t really believe it was serious labor. After all, I hadn’t been having contractions all day, the way I had with my other labors.
Around 6pm, I decided to get in the shower to see if the contractions would continue or go away. I told Jer I would call the midwife after my shower. I was really worried about jumping the gun and calling her too soon and having it not be the “real” thing, again.
My shower took longer than I expected because I had several more strong contractions in the shower and after I got out they kept coming hard and strong. So around 7:30 I finally let my midwife know I was having contractions, but told her she didn’t need to come yet, that it wasn’t serious enough. But a little while later I did call my friend Meg and ask her to come over and help, because Jer was still taking care of the kids, feeding them dinner, and our bed and bedroom weren’t ready and the birth tub wasn’t set up. She got to our house around 8:30. Also, Jer had called the midwife around 8:15 and told her that he wanted her to come because he felt like it was more serious then I realized.
(You can tell by my face that things were definitely getting more serious!)
I had been laboring by myself in my room or the bathroom most of this time because I couldn’t handle the craziness of my kiddos. At one point I realized that the women’s gymnastics qualifying round was on and I was trying to watch the floor routines but couldn’t because I had to go into my room every few minutes to work through my contractions.
My kids were watching and I told them, “I’m so mad I can’t watch the Olympics with you!” Ha! At this point I still thought I wouldn’t have the baby for several more hours. I was honestly expecting a middle of the night baby.
Once Meg arrived she helped me double make our bed, the way you do to prepare for a home birth. She also helped my two younger kids pack overnight supplies in their backpacks because Jer’s brother was coming to pick them up again. Kaelyn really, really wanted to stay for the birth, so Jer talked to her about the reality of what was going to happen. She said she understood and wanted to be here, so he told her she could stay.
Within the next 15-20 minutes, I started to feel like I was in transition and started freaking out that I was going to have the baby before the midwife got to our house. I tried to relax and slow down the labor as much as I could, but it was still coming on strong. I was telling myself and the baby to just wait until the midwife arrived. I was feeling a ton of pressure and felt the baby moving down.
I asked Jer and Meg to meet the midwife at the door and ask her to bring in the birth stool right into the bedroom because I really thought I was going to have the baby as soon as she got to our house.
The midwife finally arrived around 9:20, and I was so relieved! She joked with me that I was cutting it a little close by making sure it was the real thing this time!
I sat right down on the birth stool and the contractions were strong and super painful and overwhelming. I was trying to push, but the baby’s head was in a bad position and still was not completely down. So the midwife helped me move into different positions to try to help the baby move down and through the birth canal.
This was some of the hardest and most painful work I have ever done in labor – or at least it felt like it at the time. I’m sure my other labors were just as hard and painful, but it’s amazing how those memories kind of fade and become softer over time, isn’t it?!
I laid on my side on the bed, I was on my hands and knees on the bed, I sat on the birth stool leaning back against my midwife and pulling on a towel that Jer was holding the other end of in front of me, I laid on my back on the bed with my knees pulled up and back, all to try to get the baby to move down and into position.
My midwife checked me, and as is the theme with each of my deliveries, I was about 9 1/2 cm and had a small lip of cervix that the baby’s head still had to move past. She helped to push it out of the way during the next few contractions. The whole time I was just saying over and over, I can’t do this! And complaining about how bad it hurt. But Jer and my midwife and her assistant just kept encouraging me to try to relax and to keep going because soon I would be meeting my new baby.
Finally, after I was fully dilated, my midwife suggested I do a supported squat using Jer and the birth stool. Jer sat on the birth stool behind me and I rested my arms on his legs and he held me under my arms while I was squatting down. This was the position that finally moved the baby down and he was ready to be born!
I pushed and could feel that the baby was crowning. My midwife told me to relax and breathe and wait, but my body literally would not let me. I continued to push the baby down and out and all of the sudden, he was born!!
I was so relieved and also a little in shock. The whole thing had really happened so, so quickly and was such a blur. Earlier in the day I had definitely not been expecting him to be born that quickly. It was 10:11pm, less than an hour after the midwife had arrived!
After he was born I just sat down on the ground where I was, resting back against Jer who was still sitting behind me, and just stared in awe at our new baby boy. I really couldn’t believe he was actually here!
Although I really hadn’t been aware of her at all, Kaelyn had been there taking in the whole thing. I guess she had pulled up a little chair from the dining room and was sitting in front of me as I pushed. As soon as the baby was born she just burst into tears. They were definitely tears of joy and I think also a release of the emotional stress of the situation.
She handled everything so amazingly! She had been giving me sips of water in between contractions and had helped the midwives since they had come in so quickly and hadn’t had time to set everything up. She stood over my shoulder looking down at the baby and just sobbed. It was one of the the sweetest moments of my life, and I was so glad that she had been able to be there and experience the birth of her little brother. And after the placenta was delivered, Kaelyn was the one to cut the cord!
We moved up into the bed to check out the baby and me, and everything was good. They asked if I wanted to get settled in the bed, or move out to the couch. I asked if the Olympics were still on, I really, really wanted to watch the Olympics! Ha! They said yes, so I moved out to the couch, and snuggled up with my new baby to nurse him for the first time.
The rest was the beautiful and magical first hours after a new baby is born. I couldn’t believe that my baby was actually, finally here! It had been such a long process that ended quite dramatically!
And this surprise pregnancy that I was not thrilled about at the beginning has given us a beautiful baby boy that we are so in love with. I know there are hard days ahead with sleepless nights, cluster feedings, endless diaper changes, toddler tantrums, potty training, and everything else we thought we were done with as parents.
But now, when I look down at him in my arms, I realize that he is a dream of my heart that I didn’t even know I had.
If you’re curious about our decision to give birth at home, you can read Why We Chose to Have a Homebirth.